Evolve Already!

In a sad comment on these times, I feel obliged to begin by declaring the “theory” of evolution in its most basic sense entirely correct, despite the fundamentalist religious zealotry preventing many of our fellow humans from learning or understanding it.

Valid debates remain over important but relatively subtle points of evolutionary theory, such as the degree to which organisms inherit behavioural as well as physical traits, the maximum speed with which evolutionary changes can occur, and the impact of individuals versus groups in the evolutionary process.

One measure of adaptivity to our environment here on this planet involves the transition from nomadic gatherer-hunter clans to city-states requiring agriculture to remain stationary and support specialized societal roles. Gatherer-hunter is more appropriate terminology than hunterer-gatherer due to the relative frquency and importance of the two activities for clan survival. Aggregation of city-states through cooperation or conquest produces nations and empires until experiments with genocidal destruction prompt species-level thought and action. Finally, potential catastrophic worldwide resource depletion lays the foundation for planetary ecosphere consciousness.

Today, humans on this planet have made it virtually impossible for any remaining gatherer-hunter societies to continue. Agricultural production is at risk from corporate monoculture methods, threatening the food supply of humans. Nations regularly wage wars at an unimaginable cost in human suffering and empires explore every avenue for exploiting natural and human resources through corporate dominance over representational governments with no regard for “externalities”.

As a species, only a minority have attained species-level thought and action and even fewer are operating with planetary ecosphere consciousness. Imperatives toward clan, nation, empire, and species loyalty will have to evolve rapidly to awareness of our perilous self-manipulated environment if we are to adapt to 21st century realities on planet earth.

The only way to avoid species suicide, dragging many other species along with us, is by learning as much as possible about the ecosphere and our effects on it. Can we navigate a trajectory that provides a basic quality of life for all of us? Is it possible to retain notions of basic human rights and justice? I believe the answer will come through increased education and communication, acts of compassion for our fellow humans and those of all species, and decisionmaking structures that push representation to individuals to the degree each decision impacts each of us.

Machine Troubles

The backlight on my work computer died, so I had to send it in to Hewlett Packard for repair, thus making it more difficult to follow my New Year’s resolution to write blog entries every day.

I finished Greg Egan’s “Permutation City” today. Read on the recommendation of science fiction writer and EFF colleague Cory Doctorow, it was a fascinating exploration of the possibilities of storing human consciousness inside computers and the possibility of transcendence of computer hardware and reality as we know it. I followed Egan’s point although I’m still unclear on how the universe actually separates from its hardware underpinnings by “gathering dust” or whatever. Anyone care to comment?

Praveen and I had a great discussion of the book, along with concepts such as nanotechnology, fabricators, quantum computing, and quantum cryptography. He lost his contracting job today, so plans to spend more time doing projects related to the Online Policy Group.

One of those projects is to design an online voting system that the Tech Fed and the California Coalition for Civil Rights could use for organizational decisionmaking, since both are coalitions that need a mechanism for tabulating votes on various issues, along with comments from each organization on why it voted the way it did. Long term, it would be even better to have a system that facilitated consensus process online, provided verification of voter identity, and permitted proportional voting schemes for elections of officers or whatever. The nonprofit world has yet to benefit from one of the most basic benefits that networked applications could provide.

Preparations for a trip to Brazil to attend “Living After Capitalism” in association with the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre are going well. I managed to get the air ticket using United frequent flyer miles and I’ve applied for a U.S. passport renewal. The passport was supposed to be ready yesterday since I paid a heft expedite fee, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Hotel reservations are theoretically complete, although not with a high confidence level. Once I have the passport, I should be able to get a Brazilian visa, which now costs $100 in retaliation for a price increase of U.S. visas for Brazilians. I’ve started learning a bit of Brazilian Portuguese as well.